Time for the post-pandemic big bounce-back for global tourism?

The World Travel Market trade event in London brings together thousands of representatives from the global travel industry. A sector decimated by the pandemic is now focused on the big bounce-back.

From Japan to Jamaica, Cuba to the Czech Republic, this is one of the world’s biggest travel trade gatherings.

Showcasing how the industry’s changing and debating and discussing the new consumer and tech trends of tomorrow.

Tokyo is here to spread the message that it’s open again, restarting international tourism just last month, after more than two years of pandemic isolation. And visitors are starting to return.

Global tourism was back to almost 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the first half of this year. And, as visitors return, Tokyo’s encouraging them off the beaten track.

Masashi Imai, is the Director of Marketing and Promotion, of the Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Most people think Tokyo is a big city and staying in the city area… We have to show like, the other side of Tokyo… People can enjoy the city, but also enjoy the local areas, unknown areas. So, people just need to spread out.”

Sharing out visitors is now a key focus for many countries and destinations, as they look to deliver on their responsibility and sustainability commitments.

Common goals are pushing old rivalries aside and uniting the industry like never before.

Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno is the Minister of Tourism, for Indonesia.

“The sun, sea and sand in the past have now been complemented by the other three S’s of serenity, spirituality and sustainability. There is a certain number of tourists overall. If we keep on competing with Bangkok, with KL (Kuala Lumpur) and with Singapore, nobody is going to win.

“So, we need to collaborate, we need to think of Southeast Asia as a single destination and we believe that with a proper approach towards personalised, customised and localised, smaller in size type of tourism, we will be able to offer better experiences and memories.”

Juliette Losardo, is the Exhibition Director, of the WTM London.

“As the Millennials are coming and they’re becoming the ones with the biggest budgets, they buy experiences, they don’t just buy destinations. So, I think that what we’ll start to see is destinations will still exist as they do, but I think they’ll be talking more about what you can do in that destination.”

The likes of AI and Big Data are helping the travel industry to personalise experiences, and to reach younger travellers.

The Philippines is building unique experiences around things like diving, and adding green and educational features.

Margarita Montemayor Nograles, is the Chief Operating Officer, of the Philippines Tourism Board.

“It’s not just a case of come dive, two days diving, two to three nights of night diving, we wanted to go into a dive clean-up. Maybe come to help clean our waters and, as we’re doing that, we can do photoshoots underwater for Instagram purposes, people like that. And then, after that, we would also like to tell the marine life story.”

Saudi Arabia is growing its tourist industry and is aiming to reach lovers of experiential travel, which Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, says is about understanding the people’s lifestyles.

“If you and I are K-Pop fans, whether you’re in Riyadh or Paris, we’re the same community. So, the foodies, the shopaholics, you name it, they are digital communities. So, understanding that and targeting them behind communities, I think is the way you should approach tourism going forward. It’s passion-driven travel.”  

Meanwhile, elsewhere at the trade show, Malta is looking forward to hosting the EuroPride event next year for the very first time, as Clayton Bartolo, the Minister of Tourism, in Malta explains.

“Malta has been classified as a top LGBTIQ+ destination for the past seven years. This is a testament to the hard work that has been done on the civil rights front. Our initial projections indicate there will be over 25,000 visitors just for EuroPride next year, so considering the fact that Malta is such a small island, this will mean a huge influx of people.”

The pandemic hit the global travel sector hard, but it has reflected, is reshaping, and is now looking to the future through a very different lens.

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